For the first time since 2011, Clare have exited the U21 Hurling Championship in their opening game.
Venue: Walsh Park
Having reached the last five provincial deciders at this level and the fact that manager Donal Moloney stated in the lead-up that this was the most experienced team he’s been involved with at the grade despite being joint boss along with Gerry O’Connor for the three-in-a-row All-Ireland champions from 2012-2014 increased the hopes of the Banner faithful for this tie.
Hope quickly vanished in Walsh Park as with a strong breeze at their backs Clare only found themselves ahead by two points at the sounding of the half-time whistle. Within thirteen seconds of the second half their lead disappeared and with it their chances of victory.
In the second half Clare only managed to score two points while their Waterford counterparts notched 3-13 which was more than what the Banner could muster in sixty minutes.
Feakle’s Oisin Donnellan raised a green flag inside eight minutes to settle the Banner who took a few minutes to adjust to the setting. Once they got going they hit 1-04 without reply as Kevin Hehir, Ben O’Gorman and David Conroy pointed from distance.
With the first half drawing to a close Waterford upped the ante as they struck the final four points of the second quarter to cut the deficit to two points leaving it 1-09 to 0-10 at the interval.
Of the 4,126 spectators few expected such a blistering start to the second half from the hosts. Inside thirteen seconds the Déise nullified Clare’s lead as Stephen Bennett hit the back of the net. It was the best possible start for Waterford and the worst one imaginable for the visitors.
Not long after Bennett raised another green flag when he punished a mistake in the Banner defence. This left them with a 2-15 1-09 lead and it proved to be a mountain Clare could not scale.
A super finish from Shamrocks man Colm Roche beat Daniel Vaughan as Waterford picked up their third goal. To their credit Clare tried to get another goal of their own but Jordan Henley denied strikes from Bobby Duggan and Padraic O’Loughlin.
There is no denying this is a class Waterford outfit, the fact they managed to hit 2-06 in eight minutes speaks volumes of their quality. They now advance to their first Munster final at this grade since 2009 and have the potential to go even further. Remember this is the team that won the All-Ireland Minor three years ago and in their backyard beating them was never going to be easy.
Between them David Conroy (midfield), Kevin Hehir (midfield) and Ben O’Gorman (wing-back) scored 0-07 which is equal to what the entire Clare attack scored. Clonlara’s Mícheál O’Loughlin was arguably the standout player from the Clare Senior Hurling Championship but wasn’t named on the panel for some reason, we are open to correction if he was injured but he is the type of forward Clare needed in the absence of the injured Ian Galvin and not using him was a mistake on management’s part. The same would apply for Kilmaley’s Cian Moloney.
Similarly the decision to play David Fitzgerald at full-back is puzzling, the Inagh/Kilnamona man has shown himself to be one of the best ball-winners to emerge on to the Clare team and at full-back his task was to limit the influence of Shane Bennett, further out the field Fitzgerald would have had more to offer the team and would be winning possession himself instead of trying to win it back.
Waterford: Jordan Henley (Tallow); William Hahessy (Clonea), Conor Gleeson (Fourmilewater), Darragh Lyons (Dungarvan); Míchéal Harney (Bunmahon), Austin Gleeson (Mount Sion) (0-02 1’SC), Conor Prunty (Abbeyside); Mark O’Brien (Ferrybank) (0-02), Colm Roche (Shamrocks) (1-00); DJ Foran (Portlaw), Tom Devine (Modeligo) (0-01), Michael Kearney (Ballyduff Upper) (0-01); Patrick Curran (Dungarvan) (0-09 7f 1’65), Shane Bennett (Ballysaggart) (0-01), Stephen Bennett (Ballysaggart) (2-03). Subs: Adam Farrell (De La Salle) for Foran (42), Peter Hogan (Ballygunner) (0-01) for Prunty (48), Ross Browne (Colligan) for Shane Bennett (56), Jack Fagan (De La Salle) for Gleeson (58).
Clare: Daniel Vaughan (Tulla); Rory Hayes (Wolfe Tones), David Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona), Ciaran Cooney (O’Callaghan Mills), Jason McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona), Aidan McGuane (Kilmaley), Ben O’Gorman (Wolfe Tones) (0-02); David Conroy (St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield) (0-03), Kevin Hehir (Inagh-Kilnamona) (0-02); Oisin Donnellan (Feakle) (1-00), Bobby Duggan (Clarecastle) (0-01 1f), Shane Gleeson (Cratloe) (0-01); Colin Crehan (O’Callaghan Mills), Ryan Taylor (Clooney-Quin) (0-01), Aron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones) (0-01). Subs: Shane Taylor (Broadford) for Crehan (half-time), Padraic O’Loughlin (Clonlara) for Gleeson (inj) (40), Stephen Ward (Clarecastle) for Cooney (51), Patrick Fitzgerald (Bodyke) for Donnellan (53), Colin Burke (Whitegate) for Hehir (54).
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)